JOHANNESBURG - The impact of assistant coach Helman Mkhalele in the new dawn of Bafana Bafana has borne instant fruit. This was evident after striker Evidence Makgopa lauded Mkhalele after his dream international debut against Uganda on Thursday night.
At the Orlando Stadium, Makgopa came off the bench in the second half to score a brace for the youthful Bafana team as they came from behind to defeat Uganda 3-2 in an international friendly. The other goal for the homeside came from Bongokuhle Hlongwane.
“I’d like to thank the coaches for the call-up. Even before the game, the coach called me to his room and told me that I must have the aggression and hunger to be here. He told me that I must be one of the top players in the country,” Makgopa said after the final whistle.
“Coach Mkhalele stressed I must take this team to the Africa Cup of Nations and the World Cup. I know he has belief in me, so to disappoint him would be something else. I would like to thank him for what he did earlier. Credit must also go to the Bafana players.”
Makgopa was not in the initial Bafana squad which was announced by head coach Hugo Broos before he returned to Belgium to receive his second jab of the Covid19 vaccine. Instead, he was called-up as a backup after talisman Percy Tau tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday.
Makgopa has had a fine season with Baroka FC in the top-flight. As a result, the 21-year-old striker walked away with the DStv Premiership Young Player of the Season award last term – in just his second campaign in the top flight with Baroka.
Mkhalele, nicknamed “Midnight Express“, whose primary role in the Bafana set-up is to feed Broos and his second assistant Cedomir Janevksi, who was also ruled out of the game after testing positive for Covid-19, information about local football, says the new dawn will be based on selecting players on merit.
“When we sat down with Broos, I was grateful I have playing experience. I said that when I look at players, I don’t look at the team they are playing for but talent to provide a solution,” he said.
“If that player plays for Black Leopards, and we see that he’ll provide solutions, he'll join the team. What we’ll work on will be the mindset. We want players to believe that when they wear the South African jersey, it carries the hopes of young kids, locally and abroad.”
After Bafana’s failure to qualify for the Afcon finals next year, they’ll be hoping to hit the ground running when they clash with Zimbabwe and Ghana in the World Cup qualifiers in September.
Mkhalele was impressed with his team’s conversion rate.
“I’d say these three goals gave an indication (of where we are going) - not only to us as technical staff but the players too. Before the game I said guys you can score five goals. I believe a team which I organise can score as many as five goals,” he added.